Social Media: Humor And Truth In Anxiety Memes
Updated December 28, 2018
Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
Of all the wonderful, and maybe not so wonderful, gifts the internet has brought us in the last two decades is the meme. This little tidbit of information is like an electronic postcard that travels all over the digital world as quickly or slowly as those who view it choose to propagate it.
Memes are a way for us to share our thoughts, feelings, opinions, and humor with the world. We can create original memes or just pass along ones that speak to us. We can view them and share them with all of our online friends, or just pass it to one or two of those we know to whom the meme best relates.
Memes have been around literally since the dawn of the internet, but their popularity today is due to the overwhelming malleability found in their very nature. Memes can be just pictures, video clips, just words, or a combination of all three. They can be sent via email, text, chat, and social media. They are easy to make, and a valuable tool for self-expression in an increasingly multi-media saturated world.
Depression & Anxiety Memes
For those of us who struggle with heavy issues in our lives, memes can be an important tool for self-expression. Among the millions of memes floating around on the internet, funny anxiety memes are readily abundant in that mix. Memes allow those suffering from anxiety and depression to poke a little fun at ourselves, to relate to others, and to help each other understand the truth of anxiety behind the humor.
Coping With Humor
It's no wonder memes are so popular. After all, laughter is absolutely the best medicine; there's no doubt about that. Numbers of scientific studies conducted in the last thirty years have confirmed the many positive physiological benefits of humor according to Psychology Today. The more we laugh, the longer we live and the less stress we feel on a daily basis.
Humor therapy is a real thing. Humor can be incorporated into official therapy sessions, or prescribed as part of an at-home practice in de-stressing. Laughing about all of the funny and not so funny things in life contributes to the immune system's ability to function, and combats stress levels in our body.
Humor has such a positive effect on our psyches; it can be used to reappraise upsetting events or images according to a Stanford University study conducted on the effects of positive humor. Lead researcher, Stanford postdoc Andrea Samson said, "If you can teach people to be more playful, to look at the absurdities of life as humorous, you see some increase in well-being."
That's exactly what anxiety memes do. They allow those who are dealing with often crippling effects of anxiety, to approach it with a bit of whimsy and frivolity. By addressing it in a lighthearted way, they experience a little bit of relief, a lightening of the weight on their shoulders.
The Importance Of Storytelling
And while memes may not be the total anxiety cure, it can be part of the treatment. In a way, memes are not just a joke on the fly, but can also be a way to tell one's story. Storytelling has been an incredibly important component of all societies since the dawn of civilization.
According to a study conducted on the Agta hunter-gatherer population in the Philippines, "good storytelling helps strengthen cooperation and fairness." These stories communicate social expectations, the moral principles that should be shared by the community such as the importance of sharing, working together, or treating each other equally.
Storytelling increases empathy for those who bear witness, whether it be listening to the story or reading the words. In a study published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology, researchers discovered that people who read stories, mostly fiction, increased their empathy towards others, especially for those who would be considered "outsiders."
While memes aren't quite fictional novels, they do tell a story. Anxiety memes are a powerfully concise way of telling the world how you are feeling at a given moment or providing a little peek into your daily struggles in an off-beat, humorous way. It is a way to tell your own story to others, one snippet at a time.
The Relevance Of Social Media
While the concept of the meme has been around for some time, its popularity has been propelled forward by leaps and bounds by social media. The power of social media is immense. It can spark social movements in a fraction of the time massive societal changes took to form in the past, before the digital age.
It can divide us by highlighting all the differences we have with each other, subjecting ourselves to judgment and disassociation. But, it can also unite us by gaining an appreciation for each other's struggles and helping us all find common ground.
Above all, it serves as a lightning fast tool for communication that we can use for good or for bad. Regarding relating to others, the use of social media to spread funny memes that let us find humor in some of our biggest problems, helps us identify with each other and see that many of us suffer from the same problems.
The Power Of The Meme
Why can funny anxiety memes be particularly useful for someone living with anxiety? Well, many of us who deal with anxiety on a daily basis, particularly social anxiety, have a hard time connecting with others much of the time.
Humor is the great uniting factor. When we laugh together, we automatically form a common connection. Humor has the power to bring the most unlikely people together. We use it to poke fun at life and make it through tough situations.
We may feel so anxious about social interaction that we avoid it at all costs, thereby increasing our sense of isolation. This turns into a never-ending cycle of negative talk because we can't get ourselves to reach out and form the social bonds we want and need.
Social anxiety memes help us tell the world, "Hey I'm dealing with this, but I do want friends," in a funny way. They help those around us understand that socialization is harder for us, but not unwanted. And, it helps them understand who we are behind the anxiety.
Helping Others Understand You
Often people with anxiety are misunderstood. Some people may come off as stuck up instead of shy, or rude instead of anxious. When we meet people, we may not make eye contact, or we may run away instead of staying to make conversation. People understandably may misinterpret this action as an affront, and take it personally. They may feel that someone who in reality is dealing with intense anxiety, doesn't like them.
Memes are a way for anxious people to say, "Hey it's not you, it's me!" Sharing social anxiety memes can let the world know how you're feeling on the inside when you are thrown into a social situation. It can help others understand where you're coming from, and not take it personally.
No matter what the subject, memes are a way to share with others and connect with those of us who are like minded. Sharing a funny anxiety meme on your social media feed gives those of us who are similar an opportunity to reach out with a like or a response to say, "Oh yeah, me too!".
By letting your online circles in on more about you, you can identify and deepen connections with what would be otherwise casual online friends. Connecting with others, even in the most superficial, virtual way, is one small step in decreasing those feelings of isolation caused by anxiety.
Getting It Off Your Chest
One tried, and true method for dealing with any problem is to talk about it, or write about it - to get it off your chest. That's what memes are great for, getting how you're feeling out, so it's not just pinballing around inside your head.
It's a funny way of showing your online community what anxiety feels like, and in turn, it can give you little temporary relief from those anxious feelings that plague you.
Not A Cure
Sending out a batch of social anxiety memes will by no way cure you of your anxiety. But a little humor, a bit of telling your own story, and communicating your feelings can help ease the everyday burden of anxiety in a small way.
No matter how you choose to express yourself, whether it be by talking with others, journaling, writing letters, sending memes, or finding meaningful forms of creation, make sure you have tools available to you to help you cope with your anxiety.
While there is no definitive cure-all, you can always reach out to a professional to find out what kinds of therapies and coping mechanisms will provide the most benefit for you.
And in the meantime, keep passing around those funny memes, anxiety focused or otherwise.